As I walk, talk and sleep out here in the conscious world of toil and transaction, I’m getting myself ready for a cosy COVID Christmas…
I’ve planned, shopped, wrapped and written. Then danced around the kitchen, singing along to decades old Christmas hits, slurping snow ball cocktails, as I’ve made mince pies, mulled wine and transformed myself into a veritable Christmas Goddess.
Yet despite my machinations and preparations, most of my Christmas plans have shimmered and evaporated into the misty winter air as the spectre of COVID has slammed down port cullis’s, borders and even, temporarily, small parts of my heart.
But for all that, now it’s Christmas Eve, Christmas has settled into that same cold heart, cossetting me into a cosy blanket of familiarity and I’m feeling it, right to my marrow…
So on the inside all is Christmas sweetness, but on the outside, what a difference a year makes…
You see I have a happy, Ground Hog routine sort of festive season, which has changed little over decades. And as such, I can tell you almost exactly where I would usually be right at this point in the day / proceedings and how it would all play out from here until to the end of Boxing Day. It starts with a family birthday and proceeds through set stages of meals, activities, until another Christmas has passed and is in the past. And I play my part in this, happily sleep walking my way through, sonambulant in the certainty of the fundamental tenets of my life and my kin.
Of course COVID-19 has now put paid to all that. As we have progressed through this year of our lord 2020, the United Kingdom government, headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has made successive announcements of ‘Guidelines’: a raft of measures and actions, described by a whole new language lexicon, including ‘lock down’, ‘furlough’, ‘self-isolation’, and ‘shielding’, all ending in ‘tiers’. This new dire dictionary defining and describing parameters created to keep people apart.
What ever your take on the pandemic – where it sprang from; if it came about by happenstance or was deliberately set upon our world for a variety of nefarious reasons: the reason why we are being kept apart is that we reduce the risk of passing on this disease from one to another. And whilst most of us would feel its effects like a bout of flu, many more, with other ‘underlying medical issues’ would succumb seriously and fill our hospitals to a capacity they cannot currently cope with.
So my own world has fluxed and flexed as the year has gone on, as I’ve gone from nonchalence, to annoyance, to despair, to resignation and acceptance. And still there are more stages to go through… On Saturday 19 December 2020, the Prime Minister announced the latest set of measures designed to combat the latest increases in infection rate and several highly infectious variants of the virus.
With his words suddenly my carefully constructed Christmas crumbled into the carpet and I cried. The latest measures meant that my Ground Hog Christmas wasn’t going to happen. That I couldn’t be with my family, that I couldn’t celebrate with my friends. That everything was turned on its head.
Plans made had to be changed, and so there were phone calls with differing levels of emotion and action in response, with family, with friends, and various cohorts. And then, after thinking through a panopoly of options, we all settled on what we were going to do in this brave new, COVID altered world.
So right at this minute on Christmas Eve, normally I would be driving, onto my way to a birthday meal in a special restaurant – hungry and happy, ready to settle into the next step of my festive routine. Yet instead, here I am on my solitary sofa, writing for me and for you. This afternoon, instead of loading up my car with food and gifts, I went for a run. That in itself, I reflected as I pounded the paths and rounded the fields around my home, was truly weird. A year to the day, I could never have imagined that I would be RUNNING!
COVID has caused this – sent my out of my Corona cave to work out / run out my kinks and cares, to reinvent my middle aged self as an athlete – a label which I still can’t wear without a smug sort of smirk, in that moment just before I get on and go for it.
And running isn’t the only thing COVID has given to me – I have had time to pause and ponder my life, focus on my writing and reach out to people not spoken to in years, yet still holding a place in my memory and heart.
Yet I can’t deny either that it has taken its toll on so many. Having snatched and ended so many lives, isolated people and been a long mental stretch of successive hurdles to jump and negotiate.
But for me, today, in this altered state of Christmas consciousness, I have to choose. And that was bought home for me when I went on a walk several days ago. Whilst running is most definitely and solitarily for me; walking is a gorgeous group activity, where I will meet and greet those in my orbit and we will walk out or around or along; pacing together, talking, laughing, reflecting – making the most of nature and each other, in our strangely straitened circumstances. Walking has been my balm, my place of coming together. It has expanded my horizons, added to my step count and kept me sane.
On this particular walk it was raining and still we stepped out, my companion and me. Ahead of us I saw sunshine and remarked that this would invariably create a rainbow. And minutes after the words had left my mouth, there it was: a double bowed beauty, a major miraculous spectacle of glory and colour. I stopped. I stared. I felt its’ magnificence. And in doing so, I realised that arching over my head was a powerful metaphor for what I was going through.
The rainbow represented the unity of the rain meeting the sun. It needed both to exist. It was filtered through a grey sky and the rain falling down from it. It manifested because the sun shone through the rain to create an arched kaleidoscope of colour over our heads.
So now this metaphor represents my current choices to me. As a result I stopped crying and set out my Christmas stall. I recalibrated my arrangements and re-arranged my heart. I stopped thinking about what had been taken away from me and focussed on what, in all reality, I have. And when I think of my life in those terms, it turns out that I have a lot. I can be grateful for so much. If I miss my family and friends, well that’s because I have them to miss. I have functioning legs that can take me out to walk and talk with them. Those same legs also turned me into a runner.
As has happened so many times over these last mad months, I’m deciding to control the things I can and accept the things that I can’t. I will play my part and I will change my Christmas this year, so that there are many more Christmases to come when I can be with my family, friends and who knows who else, in those fast forgotten ways I had always taken for granted only a few short months ago. For now, I will stay safe to keep the ones I love and care about the most, safe too.
So here I am, content with my changed Christmas and surrendering to it gracefully. Easing into it now, without expectation. Having prepared for it, I can now let it unfurl as it will, breathing into it and living each moment as occurs, in all its guts and glory.
And that is Christmas for me, today. And I wish you joy of it too. As you transmute into your Christmas, despite this years differences, my wish for you is to see the rainbows too.
Happy Christmas, from a Rainbow Believer xx